MPs warn of 'appalling state of crisis' in prison system

31 October 2019, 00:13

The report has raised serious concerns with the prison system
The report has raised serious concerns with the prison system. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

MPs have said the government has no clear plan for the "desperately needed change" to the prison system.

MPs have warned that safety, security and decency are lacking in every jail across the country.

A new report from the Commons Justice Committee has condemned the lack of clear government plan for reform of the prison system.

The report instead called for a long-term strategy to "reverse the fortunes" of UK prisons

It also said a detailed plan is needed in order for the government will meet its previous pledges to increase funding and the number of cells in prisons.

The report stated that prison performance has "continued to decline" despite being identified as needing "extra support".

Commons Justice Committee chairman, Bob Neill said: "The prison system in England and Wales is enduring a crisis of safety and decency.

"Too often we have seen what might be called 'policy by press notice' without any clear or coherent vision for the future of the prison system.

"New prison places might be welcome, but they do nothing to improve the appalling condition of much of the current prison estate, nor the prospect of offering a safe environment in which to rehabilitate offenders."

MPs have warned the prison system "desperately needs change"
MPs have warned the prison system "desperately needs change". Picture: PA

It is currently estimated that reoffending costs £18 billion, however Mr Neill said violence would not reduce in prisons without proper investment into rehabilitation and activities for inmates.

"At any rate, given Government's poor track record in building prisons, we now want to see the detailed plans for the promised £2.5 billion for 10,000 more places, what they'll look like and when they'll be up and running," he added.

The report also found that there is a near £1 billion maintenance backlog in the prison system.

It also concluded that prisons are not the "safe and decent environments that rehabilitate offenders" they should be.

Concerns over staffing, infrastructure and security were also raised in the report.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "This report is a scathing indictment of a political failure.

"The Government doesn't hesitate to promise more jail time for more people, but it has no plan for how to deliver a decent, safe or effective prison system to accommodate them.

"People's lives and public safety are at stake, and making 'policy by press notice' isn't good enough.

"The people who live and work in prison deserve to be told when overcrowding will end, and dilapidated prisons finally be shut."

The prison system is said to be "enduring a crisis of safety and decency."
The prison system is said to be "enduring a crisis of safety and decency.". Picture: PA

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Now that we are heading into a volatile election period, it is important that all policy announcements are tempered with the use of evidence - and it starts with this vital report by the Justice Committee, which lays bare many of the problems in the prison system."

She accused politicians of too often using plans for prisons for "personal political gain" or to come up with "superficial quick-fix answers when, clearly, a more fundamental solution is needed".

She added: "The idea of constantly expanding the number of people in prison is simply untenable and at the root of the problem."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We know many prisons face challenges but we have been confronting those head-on by recruiting over 4,400 extra officers in the last three years.

"This Government is investing tens of millions in security and improving conditions, an extra £156 million for maintenance, £100 million to ramp up security and tackle drugs issues, and £2.5 billion to create 10,000 additional prison places.

"We also fully recognise the value of purposeful activity to reduce re-offending and cut crime, which is why we launched our Education and Employment Strategy which has led to hundreds of new businesses signing up to work with prisoners and help their rehabilitation."